Vol. 4, No. 5
May 2017

Bright Future Chicago: Where Kids and Parents Come First
  Reported by Joan Morris, WWHP

Working Women's History Project applauds the efforts of Bright Future Chicago to help working families in Chicago obtain free access to child care and early education for their children.

Bright Future Chicago is a coalition that was formed in response to the hardship inflicted upon the city's working families who are unable to access affordable child care and early education for their children. BFC reported that under Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner almost 2000 fewer children are enrolled in Pre-K at the Chicago Public Schools, and 55,000 children have lost child care.
Gwen Vaughn of SEIU Healthcare is lead organizer for Bright Future Chicago. She stated that "Parents have too much of a struggle and childcare workers need the right to join a union and to earn at least a minimum wage of $15 an hour. We need more public funding for jobs, child care and schools-not less!"
Workers receiving minimum wage in Chicago were given some hope by the Minimum  Wage ordinance. "In December 2014, the Chicago City Council passed  Mayor Emanuel's ordinance   to raise the minimum wage for all Chicago workers to $13 per hour by 2019, a 45 percent increase over the currently mandated minimum wage. The ordinance raises the minimum wage in steps over the next five years, beginning with an increase to a $10 minimum wage on July 1, 2015 ." (City of Chicago website)
However, given the high cost of child care in Chicago, the Minimum Wage ordinance will do little to help families currently receiving minimum wage. Illinois Action for Children stated in their Report on Child Care in Cook County for 2016 that " compared to other major household expenditures finding high-quality and affordable child care can be a challenge for many working families."
Illinois Action for Children stated in their Report on Child Care in Cook County for 2016 that " child care costs compared to other major household expenditures finding high-quality and affordable child care can be a challenge for many working families."
The Bright Future Chicago coalition includes SEIU Healthcare, Chicago T eachers Union,
parents, community advocates, alderman, teachers, child care providers and early educators. Community groups include Albany Park Neighborhood Council, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Pilsen Alliance, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and Action Now. Coalition members are talking to city council workers and urging the city to find ways to fund high quality child care.
For more information, call organizer Gwen Vaughn 312-371-7148 and see:


When Abortion Became Political and HB40

Reported by Jess Kozik, WWHP

Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) (Left) and her lawyer Gloria Allred (Right) on the steps of the Supreme Court in 1989. Photo by Lorie Shaull. 

Several historians, most notably Leslie Reagan in her book When Abortion Was A Crime, have established that abortions were widely and legally practiced until the late 19th century, when it was criminalized by most states. The movement to criminalize abortion was backlash against the rise of the women's liberation movement, as well as a way to combat the decline in birthrates among women with Northern European backgrounds. As Reagan words it,
"White male patriotism demanded that maternity be enforced among white Protestant women." However, criminalizing abortion did not stop women from having them. The desire to remain in control of their reproductive rights could not be eradicated. Women would turn to practitioners and others willing to break the law, or handle it themselves, in ways that would often severely endanger their health.
The second wave of feminism in the 1960s brought the fight to legalize abortion back into the conversation. While the fight to legalize it continued, groups of women were working to make unlawful abortion as safe and as accessible as possible. An underground abortion service was founded by the Chicago Women's Liberation Union in 1969. The group went by the code name Jane. Jane safely provided more than 11,000 first- and second-trimester abortions.
Then in 1973, came Roe v. Wade. Jane Roe, a Texas resident, sought to end her pregnancy. Texas law at the time prohibited abortion except to save a woman's life. The court found that a woman's decision to terminate a pregnancy in the first trimester was protected under the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty. The case was a win for abortion advocates, but did not stop legislators from attempting to control women's reproductive rights.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, states have created over 1,074 laws to limit access to the procedure since the decision of Roe v. Wade. Some laws were created in hopes that Roe v. Wade would eventually be overturned. The Illinois Abortion Law of 1975 was passed, stating that if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned or modified, Illinois will ban abortion except to save a mother's life.
Anti-abortion legislation was created to limit federal funding of abortion care as well. After abortion was decriminalized, Medicaid-a joint federal-state program that provides health coverage-covered abortion care without restriction. Then in 1976, the Hyde Amendment, proposed by Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL) passed limiting federal funding for abortion care. Federal funding is only provided in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. State funding differs from state to state. The Hyde Amendment has made it drastically more difficult for low-income women-disproportionately women of color-to get abortions.
Now, our current president has vowed to overturn Roe v. Wade. Whether or not that will happen is uncertain, but it's important that state governments take action to protect women's reproductive rights.

House Bill 40 was introduced in Illinois at the start of 2017. The bill repeals a provision in the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, and will maintain the legality of abortion if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned. The bill also ensures that women who depend on Medicaid and State Employee Health Insurance have abortion coverage. It passed in the House and the Senate, and is now up to Governor Rauner, who has voiced his opposition of the bill. P ersons who feel strongly about this bill are contacting Governor Rauner's office at (312) 814-2121 to urge him not to veto HB-40.


Sue Weiler 1933-2016 
Sue Weiler was recruited to our predecessor organization, the Women and Labor History Project, by our founder, Yolanda (Bobby) Hall. Sue was teaching at UIC at the time and helping to research and write entries in "Women Building Chicago: A Biographical Dictionary 1790-1990." Sue's interest in immigrant women and in labor history began with a job at Hull House. Her specialty was women who worked in the needle trades.
To get a flavor of Sue's work, read the beginning of Sue's review of Carolyn Eastwood's "Near West Side Stories: Struggles for Community in Chicago's Maxwell Street Neighborhood" published in 2002 by the Claremont press:
Florence Scala was born and raised on Taylor Street on the Near West Side of Chicago, but no life story begins and ends with a particular person and his or her period. Carolyn Eastwood splendidly follows this principle, starting with a neighborhood map and ending with a bibliography. In between are the oral histories of Harold Fox, whose grandparents immigrated to the Jewish Neighborhood; Florence Scala, who was born in Chicago shortly after her parents immigrated from Italy; Nate Duncan, whose family migrated to the Black Bottom; and Hilda Portillo, born in Mexico. All discuss their immigrant roots and Chicago neighborhoods, In addition to their personal stories.
Sue's holistic approach to capturing stories fit well with Working Women's Stories, our newsletter at the time. Sue also generously offered her home as a meeting place for our group for over a year.
To read her obituary go to:


Meet Working Women's History Project's Newest Intern...

Jess Kozik recently graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelors of Arts where she studied television writing and producing. She has always had a deep appreciation of writing and storytelling. Television has been her preferred medium because of its accessibility to a wide audience and collaborative nature. While studying at Columbia, she focused mostly on writing fiction and comedy. However, during her time as an intern at In These Times, a Chicago-based, progressive news magazine, she discovered her love of journalism. She also has a strong interest in social justice issues, and has previously worked on a mini-documentary series titled Unjustified chronicling the history of police brutality in Chicago. She is excited to join the WWHP team and use her voice to bring attention to important women in history, as well as current social justice issues.

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